Duran Duran – Paper Gods | 2015 – 2
[continued from previous post]
As it was pointed out in the comments last night, I didn’t actually finish the review of “Paper Gods” since there were three other, bonus tracks on the “regular” deluxe edition of the album: “Planet Roaring,” “Valentine Stones,” and “Northern Lights.” Mea Culpa! How much do they add to the bottom line on this album, when also taken into consideration?
If the last album contained throwbacks to the “Rio” album, then “Planet Roaring” was an even further look back to the Eurosmooth, yet energetic, pulsating Moroder rock of the band’s debut album. This song offered traits that went all the way back to 1981 album deep cuts like “Sound Of Thunder.” The track even featured [s]ex-Pistol Steve Jones on the track’s high energy guitar solo. It sounded like they even dusted off Roger Taylor’s drums here, though only for seasoning. Anna Ross adds some of her passionate vocals in the high energy climax to end this one on a high note. It was exhilarating to hear Duran Duran rock out on a tune with a fast tempo for the first time in 34 years? Can anyone else remember cuts that had this sort of pace and energy in the years since 1981? I’m blanking.
“Valentine Stones” was another track dependent on synth bass and beatbox, but was ultimately redeemed by Simon LeBon’s multi-tracked vocals and backing vox which sounded more engaged here than on many of the album cuts. Interestingly enough, there was no guitar credit for this track, even though there is abundant, funky rhythm guitar here. Hmmm. Could it be Mr. Rhodes… naaaaaah!!!! It does make me wonder, though. I like the subtle washes of synth that suggest a little mystery here. The track isn’t as strong to me as “Planet Roaring” but overall, one is left with a really good B-side.
The final bonus track opened with… sound effects? Foley FX of gravel walking from channel to channel and back again got overlaid with squelchy sounds and the sound of panting before doom-laden synth bass heralded the actual intro to the song nearly a minute later. Then a wasp-like UFO sound joined with the real bass and drums leading off as the song got underway. The galloping rhythm track was graced with distant, filtered LeBon vocals that gave way to multi tracked vocals with him sticking [unusually] to his upper register. At first I thought it was Mr. Bjerre or Ms. Ross! The strings returned on this track, as the chorus got down to business. The middle eight featured a nice sustained, solo courtesy of Dom Brown. The latter half of that picked up an interesting reggae beat before locking back up for the chorus fadeout, with another helping of Brown’s guitar teased on the outro. It’s not A-side material, but one does get solid helpings of deep cut mojo on this song.In fact, four of the five bonus tracks offer much to these ears. I’m definitely not convinced by “On Evil Beach,” but the rest fit either comfortably, or adventurously in the defines of the Duran Duran universe. All of these songs were written and produced by the band with Josh Blair co-producing. Mr. Hudson did not make his presence known here, and the results can be said to have much of the integrity that was almost completely absent from “Paper Gods.”
In a perfect world, how might we have assembled a more enjoyable “Paper Gods?” There’s only nine minutes left to my lunch hour, but here’s my shot for a substantially better album from the pool of 17 songs out in the wilds thus far.
Duran Duran: Paper Gods [optimized version]
- Paper Gods [I still like this track, especially as an opener. It sets an appropriate “anything-can-happen” mood.]
- Face For Today
- Valentine Stones
- Cinderella Ride
- Sunset Garage
- Pressure Off [It’s catchy enough, but with the other tunes added/removed it casts a more modest shadow on the resulting album.]
- Planet Roaring [We need some energy injected at the beginning of “side two!”]
- What Are The Chances? [They still need that LWMTB and it moderates the energy levels down from “Planet Roaring” so that “Butterfly Girl” still gives the uplift it needs to provide.]
- Butterfly Girl
- Only In Dreams [The “Butterfly Girl”/”Only In Dreams” pairing still works near the end of the album like a charm.]
- Northern Lights [Swap out the unconvincing “Universe Alone” for this much better somber, string laden closer.]
There. Six of the eleven tracks were actually written solely by Duran Duran. An eclectic mess? Sure. This album was destined to be only that. Virtually every album since “Notorious” has refused to gel into a satisfying whole. Nothing new there. Is there enough of John and Roger Taylor on bass guitar and drums? Still, no. But this playlist at least makes for an album where the band’s vibe isn’t washed away with too many meddling hands. Throwing the likes of “Danceophobia,” “You Kill Me With Silence,” “Change The Skyline,” and especially “Last Night In The City” into the wood chipper substantially improves this listener’s mood. This album I would easily give a 2.5 rating to. It may even touch a three star rating. The cover was still a shame. Your mileage may vary. How would you compile your ultimate playlist of it? Add your comments below.
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